Wind Power in the UK i
sustainable development commission
In my capacity as the immediate past Chairman of RCEP, and Chairman at the time of the RCEP EnergyReport, I would like to warmly welcome the SDC’s report on wind power in the UK as one that makes asignificant contribution to an important area of public debate. All the RCEP's scenarios in its EnergyReport envisaged a large role for wind in meeting the challenge of climate change. The RCEP remainsconvinced of the need for this role, as part of a much broader Climate Change Programme.I am pleased to note that the SDC report confirms that wind is both the cheapest and one of the mostabundant of the UK's renewable resources. At current levels of gas prices, and certainly if credit is givenfor its carbon-free status in line with current Government estimates of the social cost of carbon, it isalready cost-competitive with gas-fired electricity on the best onshore wind sites, and seems likely tobe the cheapest of all forms of power generation by 2020 on such sites, even without a carbon credit.In addition, the supposed additional system costs of wind have been much exaggerated in somequarters and it is encouraging to see that this report shows, on the basis of rigorous analysis, that theyare in fact very modest.The RCEP also expects that in the UK wind is likely to substitute for coal-fired generation in the shortterm and perhaps gas in the medium term. This means that it will reduce carbon emissionssubstantially.Another frequent misunderstanding related to wind is the implication of its variability. In fact, withmodern meteorology, wind is very predictable over the time scales relevant for balancing the electricitysystem. Its variability means that it cannot displace fossil plant MW for MW, but at penetrations up to20% of electricity generation it can displace fossil plant at around 20% of installed wind capacity. Thecarbon penalty for having to have additional conventional plant on reserve duty to compensate for thevariability of wind (which is in any case usually predictable) is very small.The visual and landscape impacts of wind remain of concern to the RCEP, and to many people who lovethe UK countryside. This concern must be taken seriously and steps taken not to allow wind farms tospoil sites designated for their beauty. But all forms of power generation have negative environmentalimpacts, and climate change will have the most serious impacts of all.
Sir Tom Blundell